While the future of AWB¹s management of the single desk was a hot topic of discussion at the meetings, providing adequate security and protection for the national wheat pools was also a pressing issue.
The trip came on the back of a tough week for the monopoly wheat exporter, with attempts to strip the company of its veto power over wheat export applications coming under severe scrutiny in Canberra.
AWB International (AWBI) chairman Ian Donges said the most difficult question his group faced at the meetings was about the security of the pools, while the current cash price for wheat as opposed to the pool price had also been a difficult subject to communicate.
Mr Donges said he believed the meetings had helped AWB regain some of the trust and confidence that had been lost by growers in recent times.
³That¹s certainly my take on the three meetings, but then again it is up to the growers to decide what they want to do,² Mr Don-ges said. ³Remember it is a free domestic market and people have choices.
³There are obviously some good cash prices out there in the marketplace right now, but it is up to the individuals to decide if they want to go down the cash route now or the AWB pools route.²
Mr Donges admitted he was personally concerned about the future of the single desk.
³I am also a grower and from a grower¹s perspective there are certainly a lot of question marks about where the politicians are going to go in terms of the single desk, but it¹s up to the growers to carry that debate forward to Canberra and to the relevant politicians,² Mr Donges said.
Mr Donges said despite the current confusion, there would be some good to come out of the turmoil facing the industry.
³When the dust settles from all of this the greatest strength and the best thing to come out of it without a doubt will be the separation of the two companies AWBI and AWB Limited (AWBL),² Mr Donges said.
The meetings drew its fair share of criticism.
PGA grains policy director Slade Brockman questioned AWB¹s motives.
³It is disturbing that AWB management are telling the government one thing ‹ that the continuing existence of the monopoly is a decision for government ‹ yet they continue to spend large amounts of growers¹ money attempting to convince growers to pool their wheat,² Mr Brockman said.
O¹Connor MHR Wilson Tuckey was also critical of the meetings, saying the status of the attendees should be determined at the start of proceedings.
³If you have no wheat or have retired from the farm management, it is grossly unfair to attend meetings and vote on behalf of others who don¹t attend as they are too busy running a successful business and seek only to get the best fair price for the product they work so hard to produce,² he said.
³WA has about 7000 wheat producing businesses and only 600 individuals attended with no evidence of their status in the industry.²